U.S. TV viewing at all time high in 2008-09

Eric Bonham and his sister Samantha Bonham, from Ft Myers, Florida, watch racing on their television atop their van in the infield area of Daytona International Speedway as Speed Week heats up in Daytona Beach, Florida February 11, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Wallheiser

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Americans are spending more time watching television, as well as playing on computers and chatting on social networking sites.

The Nielsen Company said on Tuesday that U.S. television viewing reached an all time high in the 2008-09 season, with Americans spending an average four hours and 49 minutes a day in front of the television.

The figure, which includes Americans watching recorded TV within 7 days of airing and cable viewing, was up four minutes from the previous TV season year and up 20 percent from 10 years ago.

Nielsen said the average household watched eight hours and 21 minutes a day on average -- also an all-time high. Daily viewing during prime-time remained flat compared to a year ago but was still at its highest peak since 1991.

The leading U.S. TV networks have seen a fall in audiences in recent years due to the lure of videogames, social networking and the plethora of cable TV offerings.

Nielsen said the overall increase in television consumption was a result of American homes having more TV sets, greater use of digital video recorders (DVRs) and the increase in channels and content to choose from.

In 1949-50, the typical American household watched about four hours and 35 minutes of TV a day, Nielsen’s figures show.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant